In the era of swashbuckling hitting where raw muscle power is on show, classical Test match batting is something that has faded more than anticipated. Over time, there have been the likes of Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Jack Hobbs, Sir Wally Hammond, Sir Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting, Mahela Jayawardene and Shivnarine Chanderpaul amongst others.
But the times are changing and sadly, so is the image of Test Cricket and Test match batting. Viewership of Test cricket has been affected by the emergence of pot-boiler T20 Cricket, which really isn’t worthy enough of being compared with the longer format. Test Cricket still remains one of the most challenging and intriguing sports of all time, where athletes have to sweat it out for 450 overs, over a span of five long days under the hot boiling Sun or maybe the other extremities of nature.
Here’s a look at five classy Test Batsmen in international cricket today, who set their foot on the International Arena in the past decade and have set a benchmark for themselves as stylish and elegant Test Batsmen amidst the hotchpotch of money, fame and T20 Cricket.
5. Michael Clarke:
Wanna know if Michael Clarke is classy?? Ask MSD’s India, who were at the receiving end of his run-spree during the recent 0-4 thrashing they received from Pup’s Australian team. Performing the dual role of Aussie skipper-middle order mainstay, Clarke went on to score over 600 runs in the series, with an insane average of over 125! This included the most elegant triple-century in recent times as he took the Indian bowlers to the cleaners en route to his magical 329* at Sydney.
Apparently, he still had some unfinished business as he took over from where he had left, in the next game in Adelaide, smacking a polite double-ton and ending with 210. His technique bears finesse, besides skill and power. His ability to switch between aggression and defence makes him one of the classiest batsmen of the era. Ever since being made the full-time Australian Captain post the CWC 2011, he hasn’t missed a single opportunity to lead from the front and has garnered 1,355 runs in 14 matches since, with an extravagant average of 58.91 (bettering his overall career average of 48.77) and a highest individual score of 329*.
4. A.B. de Villiers
The talent and calibre of AB de Villiers is rare, very rare. Perhaps, the only thing which he can’t do on a cricket field is deliver at 150kph or spin it like Shane Warne. He can play second fiddle to a set batsman, can hit you through the covers for elegant boundaries, smash you over long on for massive crowd entertainers, scoop you over the keeper’s head or reverse sweep an incoming 145kph delivery. Yet the quality which stands out and the sole reason why he is on this list is his style and quality as a Test Batsman. At 5”11, he isn’t the tallest in the game, but he stands tall while facing the toughest of the lot, whether it be the spinners or the men with speed. His clean text-book technique in Tests has caught the attention of one and all. On a given day, he would play as elegantly as a Dravid; on another he would be as destructive as a Gilchrist. He averages 49.16 in the format and is currently ranked 3rd by ICC.
3. Jonathan Trott:
Still fairly new to the game with just about 30-odd games under his belt, the 31-year old right-handed “old fashioned” (and being “old fashioned” is a compliment in cricket) cricketer is perhaps the newest classy Test Batsman to have sprung up onto the international arena. An average of over 51, 7 hundreds(two of them doubles), 10 fifties, a hundred on Test debut- perhaps the most ideal figures for a statsguru! The ability to nudge around when the ball is doing a bit, and then switch to the stroke-play mode is a trademark of Trott’s play. The one with the willow on the other end is not a concern as his only objective is to build partnerships, no matter with the no. 1 or 11; his record partnership of 322 with Stuart Broad bears testimony. Three Cricketer of the Year Awards in 2011, and the World saw the emergence of a new stylish, tactical and classy batsman.
2. Joint Rank
(i) Hashim Amla
Currently the World’s top ranked ODI batsman, Hashim Amla hasn’t fared too badly in Tests either. With the high back lift and dangerous swing of the bat, Hashim Amla has been South Africa’s run machine over the past 3-4 years, along with de Villiers. Nicknamed “The Mighty Beard” for his ever-growing free-flowing beard, Amla has garnered over 4,500 runs in Tests with the help of 15 hundreds and nearly 25 fifties. His overall career average of 49 is way below his average over the past three years which shot up to over 64. During the period, his away average has been exemplary at around 90. Against top quality attacks such as England, India, Pakistan and Australia he averages 70, 123, 88 and 60 respectively! His punches on the leg side, eye-catching straight drives and the ever-so-lovely cover drives are testimony to South Africa’s extraordinary success in the longer format over the past years, the most recent example: A classy double century against the World’s no.1 side at the Oval.
(ii) Alastair Cook:
Test Opener, ODI Opener, Test Vice-Captain and ODI Captain – Four roles which define Alastair Cook’s mantle in English Cricket. The stylish left-handed opener from Gloucestershire is perhaps not as destructive as his other contemporaries like Sehwag or Watson or teammates KP or Bell. But he definitely boasts of an outstanding temperament, patience and skill second to none. When Cook bats, the World sees a batsman more evolved, more mature and classier than others. His square-cut is second to none in the game. At 27, Cooky, as he’s nicknamed, has already crossed the 6,000 run-mark, thus becoming the fastest Brit to reach the milestone. An average of over 48 goes with a (British) record of 20 centuries and an infinite degree of selflessness. Cook’s unmatched performance in the 2010-2011 Ashes campaign comprised of 766 runs, an average of 127.66, 36 hours at the crease, 1000 consecutive minutes unbeaten, three big hundreds(235*, 189, 148), thus receiving two Man-of-the-match awards along with the Man-of-the-series Award and ensuring that England retained the Ashes 3-1.
1. Kumar Sangakkara:
The numero uno is undoubtedly the former Sri Lankan captain – Kumar Sangakkara. Perhaps the first classical batsman to have emerged onto the scenes at the beginning of the millennium, Sri Lanka’s middle order mainstay Kumar Sangakkara’s prowess with the cover drive (which in due course of time, is most likely to be renamed as the “Sanga Drive” in the island nation), mastery over the pull, expertise in hooking the short bouncers and elegance with the straight drives is one of the major reasons for Sri Lanka’s rise as a Top Test playing nation over the past decade or so. Currently ranked the World no. 1 in Tests, Kumar Sangakkara’s Test Batting Average of over 56 is second only to South African Jacques Kallis amongst the current players. He definitely is the classiest batsman of the modern era.